China's death penalty highest in the world, report says


April 10 (UPI) — The Chinese government may still be executing several thousand people, even though officials have claimed the death penalty only applies to an “extremely small” number of cases.

According to Amnesty International’s 2016 global review of the death penalty, China outranks Iran and Vietnam, while putting to death more people annually that all other countries combined, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Describing the level of capital punishment in place as “grotesque,” Amnesty stated thousands of people are executed every year in a court system that lacks judicial process in the trials.

“Given the lack of an independent judiciary in China, the dominant role of the police, and the systematic overreliance on confessions — often extracted through torture…there is a very real risk of miscarriages of justice,” said William Nee, author of the Amnesty report.

Past convictions have been overturned.

In December, China cleared the name of a man who was convicted of rape and murder two decades ago.

Nie Shubin, executed by firing squad, was found not guilty but only after his family campaigned for him and another man eventually confessed to the crimes.

Executions have also helped to supply the country with organ transplants, a practice that was in place until 2015, according to the Chinese government.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared his plan to reform China’s judicial system, but the country has yet to publish the exact number of executions still taking place in the country.

China’s top legal official, Supreme People’s Court President Zhou Qiang, has claimed executions are carried out in an “extremely small number of cases” and only for the “most severe offenses,” writes Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia regional director at Amnesty.

But secrecy involving the executions remains an issue despite efforts at reform, according to Amnesty.

Iran registered the second highest number of executions, more than 560, in 2016, and Vietnam may have put to death 429 people between August 2013 and June 2016.

The United States fell out of the top five with the lowest number of executions, or 20, since 1991.

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